Previewing the Seattle Seahawks' opponent this week, the Cleveland Browns, with Josh Edwards of 247 Sports.

Share story

Here’s our weekly preview of the Seahawks’ opponent. This week it’s the Cleveland Browns, and helping us by answering five questions about the team is Josh Edwards, who covers the Browns for 247 Sports.

Q1: It sounds like last Sunday’s 24-10 win over the 49ers was Johnny Manziel’s best game — what was different?

A: Sunday against the 49ers was definitely one of Manziel’s best games in Cleveland. One of the biggest contributors to his success was likely the currently poor state of the San Francisco 49ers. He completed the game by completing 21-of-31 passes for 270 yards, a touchdown and an interception. With each passing game, Manziel has grown more comfortable in an NFL game and it shows.

His growth can be attributed to his work in film study. He shows a good command of the huddle when on the field. He understands the plays being called and his reads. At times, he tried to force passes to his first read last year. He has taken the time to go through his progressions and either find a check down or get the ball out-of-bounds. The biggest cause for optimism is a change in playing style. Everyone is familiar with Manziel’s impromptu days at Texas A&M. There is definitely an element of that still in his game but he is now a pass first quarterback. He does not get antsy in the pocket and he keeps his eyes downfield when feeling pressure. His abilities allow him to extend plays which Seahawks fans should understand with Russell Wilson.

Q2: How did the Browns get nine sacks on the 49ers?

A: The astonishment of Sunday’s sack total is not lost in Cleveland. The Browns defense brought pressure from all levels and the 49ers offensive line allows the most sacks in the NFL. Players on the defensive line made sacks as well as the linebackers and secondary. It was a total team effort. Prior to the game, Cleveland had just 17 sacks all season. No players returned to the field for Cleveland that week. It was just improved play and a questioned effort by the 49ers.

The defense made progress at the end of last season. It was expected to be a strength this season with the addition of nose tackle Danny Shelton and defensive end Randy Starks. Instead, the unit has failed in all aspects. Head coach Mike Pettine, a former defensive coordinator, has been under fire all season because of their play. In the days leading up to the game, safety Donte Whitner came out and said that it was not the coaches’ fault. The players had let them down. It will be interesting to see if a realization took place and the defense plays well again.

Q3: What was the key to Cleveland’s rushing attack in that game?

A: For the first time this season, I have had to answer why the rushing attack was so good and the pass rush was so successful. Again, it would be wise to start with the play of the 49ers. Like the Browns, they are one of the worst teams in the NFL in terms of stopping the run. The 49ers have now allowed 133.2 rushing yards per game. The reasons for the offensive line’s struggles have been a mystery this season. They have a Pro Bowl left tackle in Joe Thomas and a Pro Bowl center in Alex Mack. Their left guard (Joel Bitonio, who is now on the injured reserve) and right tackle are former second round draft picks. The team has devoted a lot of assets to the group yet they have not rushed for 100 yards since Week 5 against the San Diego Chargers.

Running back Isaiah Crowell has been running in to the back of his linemen all season long. However, there were some holes on Sunday. He took advantage of the space and had some big gains. The 49ers missed some tackles and Cleveland made plays. The team felt very confident about the match-up against San Francisco during the week of preparation.

Q4: What have been the main reasons for the team’s disappointing record this season?

A: For once, the issue was not quarterback. It was nearly every other position. Whether it was Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel or Austin Davis, the quarterback has done well with a talent depleted wide receiver group. Despite the Week 1 loss to the New York Jets, there was some optimism around the team after Week 5. They were 2-3 at the time but two of their losses came by a combined ten points. They then lost to an, at the time, undefeated Denver Broncos team by three points in overtime. The units that were expected to be strengths going in to the season – offensive line and the secondary – have been weaknesses. Cornerback Joe Haden has played in just five games. Pro Bowl safeties Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner have missed some time as well. When combined with the understanding that Cleveland does not have the personnel to stop the run, it is easy to see why the defense has struggled.

A lot of blame can be placed on the coaching staff as well though. Fans have seen countless examples of clock mismanagement and poor use of personnel all season. It’s been a disappointing season and Cleveland could once again be looking at changes in the off-season.

Q5: How has Danny Shelton, the former University of Washington and Auburn High star,  played this season?

A: Danny Shelton has played solid but not spectacular. He will not be in the mix for any Defensive Rookie of the Year awards. With his size, he has been able to throw players in high school and college around. It is much tougher in the NFL. He has struggled to keep his pad level low which leads to a leverage advantage for the opposing offensive lineman. Coaches still rave about his potential but there is a lot of room for growth.

Fellow first-round draft selection Cameron Erving has also struggled. He received the starting assignment at left guard when Joel Bitonio went down with injury. He made some glaring mistakes and has since given way to veteran Austin Pasztor. Misuse of high draft selections in recent years is a big reason why the Browns have struggled to have any success since the team returned in 1999.